By Mark Ellis
Ed and Angie Wright founded a successful faith-based real estate company in Orange County, California. But their efforts to grow and sustain Christ-centered marriages through counseling programs they developed provides even deeper satisfaction for the couple.
“When we got involved in premarital counseling, our marriage became so much better,” says Ed Wright, who founded “Marriage by God Ministries” with Angie. In 2000, they volunteered to help with a new premarital couple-to-couple counseling program at Saddleback Church.
The first curriculum in use at Saddleback involved four or five hours of homework each week, something many newly engaged couples found daunting. They noticed most couples came to the sessions unprepared, which discouraged the Wrights.
“We have to do something about this curriculum,” Ed told Angie. Over the next year and a half they developed a new curriculum with two primary goals in mind. First, it had to be true to God’s Word. Second, it would contain homework that could be finished in an hour a week.
Kathy Jo Stones, a marriage therapist, oversaw their project at Saddleback and provided valuable contributions to their materials. But even though she encouraged their effort, she reserved judgment until she and others at Saddleback could review the finished work.
“She didn’t get back to us for a couple months,” Ed recalls, which left them waiting on God and wondering if their efforts were in vain. “Finally she called us and said, ‘I love this material!’”
Saddleback Church is still using their “Two Becoming One” premarital counseling workbook, a six-week, couple-to-couple program. Their premarital course has also been translated into several languages and is being used in Argentina, Russia, China and New Zealand.
The success of that effort provided the impetus for their latest workbook, “Putting the ‘Happily’ Into Your Ever After,” a couple-to-couple marriage enrichment mentoring program co-authored with Kathy Jo Stones.
“We discovered many Christian couples that were one step away from divorce,” Ed notes. “They had gone to professional counseling and that failed.”
One of the keys to the success of their latest efforts goes beyond the material itself. “We realized we didn’t have the tools to be therapists,” Ed says. “So we turned it over to God and let the Holy Spirit take over in these sessions.” That has made a major difference in outcomes.
They are currently working with two Christian married couples who have endured adultery. Another couple they counseled recently lived in the same house (in separate bedrooms), but only communicated with each other via email.
“This will be the toughest thing you’ve ever done in marriage,” Ed and Angie tell couples at their first meeting. “But if you give in slices, God will give back in loaves. You need to trust God, and expect the Holy Spirit to create a miracle in your marriage.”
They tell each spouse to work on their relationship with God, not try to fix the other person. “Let the Holy Spirit take over,” he says. “Be honest and transparent and expect a miracle.”